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When Our Teens Start Driving, Letting Go Is So Hard

teenager starts driving

I recently took my son to the DMV to get his Driver’s Permit. As we stood in the long line waiting to shuffle in with the rest of the crowd, I vividly recalled doing the same thing with my older daughter who’s now full-grown and living in an apartment 500 miles away at college. This particular “Permit” moment was a pivotal point in her life. I cherish that memory and the rest that followed because from that exciting step forward in her budding childhood, everything seemed like a blurry, fast-paced race toward the beginning of adulthood.    

The years that followed were filled with packed schedules and exciting opportunities that whirled like the wind through her few final years home. Getting her Driver’s Permit forged a new path in this parenting journey that steered us through tumultuous and sometimes terrifying terrain, full of many changes and challenges that drove us to the end. And in an instant, it was over and she ventured off to travel her own routes alone.  

And here I am with my last big kid, beginning the full and final season of his life here at home, where he will grow up too fast and start spending more time doing his own thing. He will transform into an independent young man so swiftly it will take my breath away. And realizing this sinks me. I know how this goes. As soon as they sit behind that wheel, the drive to freedom accelerates full speed ahead toward take off. The car he now drives with sweaty shaking hands, as I sit by his side teaching him all I can, will soon be filled with most of his belongings along with all he knows, and his strong and steady hands will take the wheel and steer it toward wherever he dreams to go.   

We raise our kids through 18 long years, taking care of all their needs. Our days are spent doing countless tasks to keep them fed, clothed, safe, and well. We are continually making sure they are learning and growing and feeling loved, as we coordinate their schedules and help them manage their days. We are always worried and wondering if they are okay as they begin to experience the bittersweet reality of this world being both beautiful and broken through their teen years. We pray they find their place in it, and they end up believing they matter.    

We are teaching and guiding them, encouraging them and supporting them in everything they do, and all they are discovering about who they are and who they want to be. And we hold on with the enduring hope that the seeds we planted will flourish as they begin making their own decisions for themselves. We carry their hurting hearts and budding dreams, we witness their true selves emerge from the groundwork we laid, and we pray they will always know we love them.   

We counsel them and console them through all the twists and turns of growing up, sacrificing everything we have to pour our love and our hope, our grace, and our wisdom into their porous hearts and expanding minds. They are trying new things and discovering their strengths. They are stumbling and falling and learning how to get back up again. We walk with them through their greatest moments and hardest days, knowing each experience will shape valuable pieces and parts of their story.     

They have setbacks and failures, mistakes and mood swings, and much of this season of parenting our teens can feel heavy and hard, exhausting and maddening. But these are the times when our kids’ most significant growth occurs. And there is nothing more fulfilling than watching them transform into all God created them to be.    

It’s an exhilarating and exhausting and unpredictable road we travel through these last few years. It’s both heart-breaking and dream-making. But most of all, this season of parenting steers us down paths we’ve never traveled before, and we are sometimes just as lost and confused, fearful and surprised as our kids are. So, we learn how to navigate this new landscape of life together, as we slowly surrender and let them take the wheel. And we try to trust they will make the right turns and stops down each road they choose.    

Letting go is the hardest thing we’ll ever do.   

And before we know it, time takes us to their final days at home with us, full of celebrations and hard decisions about their next steps into the future. We ache with the truth that this season will end, and we hope and pray we’ve done enough to prepare them for what lies ahead.    

We’ve helped write their story up until now, full of intricate details defining their childhood. Each memory and moment have cultivated who they are and the rest of their story is theirs to write as they continue to grow, one chapter at a time. And with every turn of the page, with every line they scribe, we hope and pray we can go along for the ride.  

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